The late Mr. Paddington, he never was on time.
His favorite fruit was cherry, and his favorite sport was crime,
His favorite game was soccer, and his favorite season fall,
He lay beneath the awning as his bony legs did sprawl.
That day, he saw a lizard slip into a crack, a slight
Sliver of volcanic rock; its tail whisked out of sight.
The space inside was hot and dark, the lizard stood stock still,
A spider moved on silent legs; the lizard felt a thrill.
Outside, the wind was blowing on a gnarly sycamore,
As down the block a little boy, he slammed the wooden door,
And walked by Mr. Paddington, a book beneath his arm.
A milk truck trundled past him, coming from the dairy farm.
And through the window of a house, he saw gesticulate
A sallow man who swiftly rocked above a china plate.
Around him curved a solid wave of comrades, men who sang
A song that stole into his ears, in which it softly rang.
Then gravel muttered in his soul, the blade it softly sang
The pull of money and of want. He heard its metal clang.
The padding Mr. Paddington behind him slowly stepped,
The sallow man behind the window danced with steps that crept.
The yellow flowers and the red upon the sober street,
The airplane flying high above, upon its way to Crete,
The coral on the ocean floor, the sea anemone,
The fish the color of the sun or green as Indian tea,
Pluto frozen on its round, dipping low and wide,
Sweeping into Neptune’s blue, upon its oval ride.
And Boston sighed, the sidewalk hard, the mayor lost and cold,
And Paddington, he swept along and contemplated gold,
As women--mothers, sisters too--wept of their intent
To keep their men—their husbands, sons--inside the horse-hair tent.
The river swept between the canyon’s rugged, sun-pink walls
And prayers swept like jagged scraps of half-scraped saber scrawls.
In the realm of lack, of want, there’s no one who is smart,
But people only follow down the valley of the heart.
The prayer of pneumatic drills, it breaks the old concrete
Until the workman’s hands that shake are filled with mystic heat.
I live inside a house. Do you?
These beating wings, this need to breathe,
This waiting for the missing check,
The final answer to come through.
I woke up in a suit of flesh. And you?
I tried to shake it off. I hid.
I sought the refuge of a wreck,
But nothing that I sought proved true.
I landed in a world of blue,
With hummingbirds beneath the lid
Of each familiar miracle
Of green and red and dust and dew.
The reprobate ate linseed oil,
Then met his friend called Irma Doyle.
Together, smiling, on they went
To Rochester and then to Kent,
In which they met a circus man,
A cook who just with one old pan,
With just two eggs, a pat of butter,
Could spin the taste, with mystic mutter,
Of spot of lamb and breath of kipper,
Then sail upon a Yankee clipper,
Whose proud sails blew in bright blue breeze
Upon the crinkled, silver seas.
…That was the dream that Peasdale had
Upon the quad. He blamed his dad.
He blamed his mom, his teachers too.
Up to the roof a pigeon flew
And looked at him and archly cooed,
Which, Peasdale groused, was low and rude.
And Peasdale walked upon the shore,
Whose brindled rocks spread more and more.
He came back to his sweetheart’s door,
And found her pacing on the floor,
For she’d forgotten all about
The drama of this layabout.
And so he painted his house white
And painted stars upon the night
And lines of bronze to signify
The hills, the linnets thrumming by.
The sidewalk sang beneath his feet,
The goats behind the fence did bleat,
He reached the gate, of brick and gold,
All weather-stained and sagging old,
And then the night swirled round with mist,
He lost the watch upon his wrist.
It hardly mattered any more.
He knocked upon the oaken door.
Yaacov David Shulman